For many Canadians, their most exciting adventure over the past couple months has been a weekly trip to the grocery store.
But now that provinces are easing COVID-19 restrictions, some people may be contemplating travel abroad.
Here’s what you need to know about travelling outside Canada while COVID-19 still lingers in our lives.
Can I travel now?
Yes, but with a lot of conditions to consider.
On March 13, the federal government issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel, to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The advisory remains in effect until further notice.
Despite the advisory, Canadians can still travel abroad. However, travellers may struggle to find flights and their travel insurance likely won’t cover their medical bills if they fall ill with COVID-19. They’ll also have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.
The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to tourists on both sides of the border until June 21. And that date could be extended if the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — now totalling more than 1.6 million — remains a concern.
Where can I go?
Due to closed borders and a fear of flying during the pandemic, airlines have slashed their routes.
WestJet has grounded all transborder and international routes until June 25. Air Transat and Sunwing have stopped flying altogether until June 30 and June 25, respectively.
Air Canada is currently flying at about five per cent of its capacity. On Friday, the airline announced an updated summer schedule that offers flights to 97 destinations including Rome, Athens and locations in the Caribbean.
Once Canada lifts its advisory against international travel, airlines will start adding more routes, said Allison Wallace, spokesperson for the travel agency Flight Centre.
But she warns it could take up to two years for carriers to resume normal operations.
“The airlines aren’t going to come back and go to 100 per cent,” she said. “There’s sort of a general agreement that international travel will start to come back around 20 per cent by the fall — like September — and then it’ll grow from there.”
But travellers may face stiff entry requirements. For example, St. Lucia and Iceland will require that visitors get a COVID-19 test before flying and provide proof upon arrival that they’re virus-free. If travellers to Iceland can’t get a test beforehand, the country plans to test them when they arrive.
Airline analyst and McGill University Prof. Karl Moore is set to fly to Iceland in August to teach for a couple days at Reykjavík University.
But if he can’t get tested in Canada beforehand, Moore is unsure he’ll take the trip. That’s because, if he tests positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, he’ll have to foot the bill for a 14-day quarantine in a Reykjavik hotel. Travellers suffering from COVID-19 can’t fly back to Canada until they recover.
“It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars to be quarantined,” said Moore. “I love Reykjavik, but I may end up teaching [instead] on Zoom.”
What about travel insurance?
Insurance broker Martin Firestone believes that when Canada lifts its travel advisory, travel insurance providers may continue to exclude coverage for COVID-19-related illnesses — until there’s a vaccine.
“A person who ends up on a ventilator in the U.S., it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so [insurance providers] are in no position to take that risk,” said Firestone, president of Travel Secure in Toronto.
He said if travel insurance continues to exclude COVID-19 illnesses, many Canadians will refuse to travel, including his snowbird clients.
“I’m worried that the entire snowbird season, upcoming, could be put on ice … until such a time that there is a cure or a vaccine.”
CBC News reached out to several major insurance travel providers to find out if they would resume covering COVID-19-related issues when Canada lifts its travel advisory. They said they couldn’t make a definitive statement at this time.
What will air travel look like?
In Canada, the federal government has mandated that all air passengers wear face masks on planes, and in airports when social distancing isn’t possible.
Airlines are promising a long list of safety measures to protect passengers from catching COVID-19. Air Canada has implemented temperature checks, frequent cabin cleanings, and says strangers won’t have to sit side by side in economy class — which means the dreaded middle seat will remain empty.
WATCH | Airports and airlines develop new ways to help passengers feel safer:
Several airlines have pledged not to sell the middle seat on planes, as a protective measure. However, this plan may not last.
This month, the International Air Transport Association declared that, while it supports protective measures on planes, it opposes blocking the middle seat.
The association argues that the risk of virus transmission on board is low and axing middle seat sales will kill airline profits — unless ticket prices go up.
It’s important to note that, even if travel restrictions are lifted and airlines add more flights, any vacation plans could quickly fizzle if we’re hit with a severe second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.
Gulf Keystone Petroleum Gave Away Crude Oil For Free In April – OilPrice.com
If you were wondering how those negative crude oil prices in April played out in the physical market, now we know.
As the price of WTI fell below the $0 mark last month, Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd., a seller of Shaikan crude oil produced in northern Iraq, gave its oil away last month for free according to Bloomberg, as the price of its oil pumped from the Shaikan field traded more than $21 under Brent prices.
Brent traded at an average of $21.04 for the month of April.
The recipient of the month’s worth of free crude was the Kurdish regional government. It’s unclear if they had to make up the 4-cent difference per barrel—but at any rate, that $43,000 price tag for more than a million barrels of oil is still quite the bargain.
Gulf Keystone Petroleum produces 36,000 barrels a day of the Shaikan crude, according to the company’s website. Gulf Keystone made the Shaikan 1 discovery in 2009, before selling domestically in November 2010.
GKP’s full-year after tax profit for 2019 was $43.5 million.
Oil managed to stay out of the red in May, with the price of a Brent crude barrel on Thursday reaching over $35 per barrel, as the supply outlook has improved with significant OPEC cuts, and oil demand has improved since April. Brent topped $65 at the beginning of the year.
But oil prices are not expected to make a drastic recovery overnight. Lingering lockdowns in the world’s largest demand center, the United States, is stymying any recovery on prices, even as OPEC, Russia, and the United States have managed to cut production by millions and millions of barrels per day.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.
TD and CIBC cap three days of dismal forecasts of economic impact of COVID-19 – The Globe and Mail
Two more major Canadian banks have reported quarterly profits declined by more than half as they stocked up reserves to absorb anticipated loan losses, capping three days of dismal forecasts from bankers about the extent of the economic damage the novel coronavirus could do.
Toronto-Dominion Bank set aside more than $3.2-billion in provisions to cover losses on loans that could go sour, an eye-catching sum that eclipsed large spikes in provisions at each of the other Big Six banks. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce set aside more than $1.4-billion as a reserve against its own potential losses on Thursday.
The need to rapidly build bulwarks against future losses was the driving force behind the steep plunge in earnings across the sector in the fiscal second-quarter – profits declined 52 per cent at TD and 71 per cent at CIBC. But in the midst of a global pandemic that prompted a wide-ranging economic shutdown, all six of the country’s big banks remained profitable, with capital levels securely intact and their quarterly dividends unaltered.
“I think that’s one reason the banks’ [stocks] are rallying, even though the results themselves in absolute terms are not good,” said Meny Grauman, an analyst at Cormark Securities Inc. “There’s a big relief that there was no bomb so far in the results.”
The provisions that banks booked were largely based on complex forecasts of possible future losses, calculated using the best assumptions they can cobble together at this stage. They provide a yardstick by which to measure the potential scale of economic carnage from COVID-19, taking stock of debt held by consumers as well as businesses of all sizes in an array of industries. But the pace of recovery is uncertain, and senior bankers warned that a return to precrisis profitability won’t be quick.
“It may take to , it may take to early  before you see a robustness back in the banking sector again, assuming that the health care crisis is behind us,” Victor Dodig, CIBC’s chief executive officer, said on a conference call with analysts.
For the three months that ended April 30, TD reported profit of $1.52-billion, or 80 cents per share, compared with $3.17-billion, or $1.70, a year ago. Adjusted for certain items, TD said it earned 85 cents per share, on an adjusted basis, matching analysts’ consensus estimate, according to Refinitiv.
In the same period, CIBC earned $392-million, or 83 cents per share, compared with $1.35-billion, or $2.95 a share, last year. On an adjusted basis, CIBC said it earned $0.94 per share, far shy of the $1.65 in adjusted earnings per share analysts expected.
The resilience of banks’ capital levels was an important theme in the second quarter, and each large Canadian bank emerged with billions of dollars in excess capital over and above the minimum threshold set by regulators. Yet TD had a sharper decline than expected in its common equity Tier 1 (CET1) ratio – which measures a bank’s highest-quality capital relative to its assets, an important indication of a financial health – which fell to 11 per cent, from 11.7 per cent a year ago.
A range of factors contributed to the drop, including share buybacks before the crisis and changes in foreign exchange rates, but the bank also adjusted the levels of risk it assigns to various assets as customers drew heavily on credit lines when the shutdown began in mid-March. To be prudent, TD introduced a 2-per-cent discount on shares purchased through its dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP), which is a tool to raise capital, after BMO made the same move in April.
By contrast, the CET1 ratio at CIBC didn’t budge, remaining at 11.3 per cent, partly as result of a routine adjustment of the bank’s models. As some loans deteriorate because of economic losses owing to the economy shutting down, however, CIBC expects some pressure on the ratio is possible in the current quarter.
After two days of surging prices for bank stocks, shares in TD and CIBC both gave back some ground on Thursday, falling 3.8 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively, on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Even as banks prepare for a surge in impaired loans, actual losses have been delayed in some cases by payment deferral programs the banks are offering and government relief measures. TD said it has deferred payments on $62-million in loans to consumers and businesses, a majority of which is made up of mortgages, while CIBC has granted payment deferrals on loans worth $51.6-billion to clients in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.
As those programs expire, banks expect most customers to resume payments. “I view the deferral programs to be ultimately risk-reducing,” said Ajai Bambawale, TD’s chief risk officer, because they give customers breathing room to bounce back from a temporary loss of income.
But TD has built reserves to cover some losses on deferred loans, “because in our view it is a matter of time before some become delinquent, others may become impaired as well,” he said.
Driving up loan-loss provisions played a major part in sapping profits in the banks’ core retail divisions. Customers also spent less money on cards and used spare cash to pay down debt. And rapid cuts to interest rates by the Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve squeezed profit margins on loans.
At TD, retail banking profit fell 37 per cent to $1.17-billion in Canada, and plunged by 90 per cent in its U.S. retail arm, to $102-million, excluding profit from the bank’s share of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. And CIBC’s profit from Canadian personal and small business banking fell 64 per cent, to $203-million.
In banks’ capital markets divisions, robust levels of trading activity and record levels of debt underwriting were expected to help prop up banks’ profits. But in several cases, those benefits were eclipsed by rising provisions on corporate loans and losses on certain trading strategies in volatile equity markets.
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Ski-Doo maker BRP reports $226-million loss as growth skids in pandemic – Financial Post
Ski-Doo maker BRP Inc.’s high-growth trajectory skidded this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic that eroded demand for some of its recreational products as dealerships closed their doors to follow lockdown orders.
On Thursday, the Quebec company, originally part of Bombardier Inc. until it was spun off in 2003, reported a net loss of $226.1 million in the three months ended April 30. The loss was driven by a $171.4-million writedown in its marine division, which will stop producing outboard engines given existing troubles exacerbated by COVID-19.
But BRP executives said sales across all products and geographies are up about 35 per cent in May so far compared to this time last year as people look for activities closer to home. In the United States, BRP’s largest market, sales even increased 4.8 per cent in the first quarter.
“With the new travel restrictions and vacation at home trend, our retail is returning strongly and showing very positive signs,” BRP chief executive José Boisjoli said in a statement.
Despite the optimism that COVID-19 could actually be good for business and continued strength in the U.S., BRP estimates revenue will fall 40 per cent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year and drop between 10 and 20 per cent in the second half of the year.
Analysts are also skeptical that May’s sales volumes are sustainable.
“This is likely driven by consumers foregoing travel and instead planning staycations with powersports, an ideal activity to respect social distancing,” National Bank analyst Cameron Doerksen noted to clients Thursday.
BRP has been on a tear over the past several years, with its market value eclipsing that of its former parent earlier in 2020 before the pandemic took hold. But it could be difficult to continue on its growth trajectory as millions of people lose their jobs across North America. Disposable income for expensive products like personal watercraft has historically taken a hit during recessions.
“Given that consumer demand for powersports is ultimately driven by broader economic conditions, we do not believe this retail performance will continue,” Doerksen noted.
BRP stock plummeted from an all-time high of $74.80 per share in mid-February to $19.75 by the end of March, but has rallied higher since then. The stock closed $48.81 per share, down 3.75 per cent, on Thursday.
National Bank raised its price target to $55 from $40 to account for BRP shedding its outboard engine division, which was struggling to compete against the dominant industry player and dragging down profitability.
Still, BRP managed to gain market share from its competitors during the pandemic, particularly in its relatively new side-by-side utility vehicle division. Doerksen expects this trend to continue as BRP has the financial strength to invest to keep investing in new products during a downturn.
Boisjoli acknowledged the COVID-19 crisis significantly disrupted business, but said the company was able to successfully adjust its plans.
BRP temporarily stopped or slowed down all of its marine and powersports manufacturing operations due to government restrictions during the pandemic. It implemented temporary layoffs and permanently cut approximately 900 positions around the world. Most of its manufacturers and dealerships have since re-opened, including its snowmobile plant in Valcourt, Quebec.
But the pandemic led BRP to permanently stop building outboard engines, a move that will result in 650 job losses globally. It will repurpose its facility in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and permanently shutter its plant in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, as part of the reorganization.
“This business segment had already been facing some challenges and the impact from the current context has forced our hand,” Boisjoli said in a separate announcement Wednesday.
BRP will concentrate instead on the pontoon and aluminum fishing markets.
The exit from outboard engines could be a boon to the company as the product sold under the Evinrude brand struggled to gain traction and hurt profitability.
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